Dear RIM Santa: All I want for Christmas is better calendar sync

By IsaacKendall on 9 Dec 2010 09:20 am EST
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Calendar

To begin, I love my BlackBerry and yes I would consider myself a fanboy of sorts.  The BlackBerry was my first connected to the web device going back to my beloved 950 and it's AA-battery.  Unlike some device fanboys, I'm secure enough to point out when I believe there is a shortcoming in the feature list. 

We're always reading about people's wish lists for the BlackBerry. Some want cooler apps like Angry Birds and others hope for a cross platform BBM client. I'm not going to lie Angry Birds is near the top of my list and if it isn't on the PlayBook I'm calling it DOA; but for my money there is a bigger and more important on my wish list for Santa Claus this year.

I'm a mobile professional as well as a husband & father so to describe my life as busy would be an understatement. The moment my daughter entered grade school I felt like Brooks Hatlen from The Shawshank Redemption "The world went and got itself in a big damn hurry". In order to keep my work life, personal life and my wife's life I utilize multiple calendars.

My BlackBerry is on the BES at work and I have 3 BIS accounts running attached to Google mail accounts. My main Google account has 4 calendars attached to it; my personal calendar, my wife's, my parish group and my beloved Vancouver Canucks' game schedule. Google does a very nice job providing a color coating system of my calendars so I can see what's what at a glance at the desktop level.

I jumped for joy when RIM rolled out the latest BIS update which delivered wireless Google calendar sync. I know my pal Adam Zeis who is a big Google calendar guy agrees the predecessor to BIS calendar was the Google Sync tool provided by the Google Mobile suite was one of the worst products ever delivered to the BlackBerry world. The only saving grace of Google Sync was it allowed for multi-calendar sync and sadly this is missing from BIS calendar sync.

This extra step makes my BlackBerry life quite inefficient; because I'm left cracking open my browser to pull up my Google calendar in order to avoid duplication of my very limited time. Admittedly this is not a huge challenge to my level of nerdness but it is an insurmountable obstacle for my wife. There is no chance in hell she will ever open the browser and launch Google Calendar to see if I've booked something in my calendar before she starts filling up hers.

This calendar challenge does not exist everywhere in the smartphone world; my Android phone does not have this issue so it shows that my dream is totally possible. So when I take the kids to the mall to see Santa, daddy will be asking for true multi calendar sync for my BlackBerry.

So to the people in Waterloo I ask that you please expand the BIS calendar sync to accommodate all calendars listed under "My Calendars' in Google.

Reader comments

Dear RIM Santa: All I want for Christmas is better calendar sync

41 Comments

I'm using the Google Sync app still, and it works just fine. The only time I've had duplicate entries is when I do a backup/restore for a new OS, and that should be avoidable by not restoring the calendar and letting it sync instead.

With OS6 on my 9700, I had an instance where each of my calendar entries happened 4 times (is quaduplicate a word?). I had logged out of google sync and deleted the app before turning on calendar sync in BIS.

Either that, or I may have messed up something with activating calendar sync in BIS or Google Sync. Either way, however, it wasn't a very user-friendly process. It was a big turn off for me.

I had problems with my calander (dupilated events 13 times at one point) and I couldn't understand what it was. It turned out that the Facebook app of RIM's making the calander default to Facebook (ever though it shows gmail) duplicates entries then erases your entire calander.

Once I dumped the RIM Facebook app, my calander has been near flawless (except that when I enter an all day events on my BB, it shows up on Google calander split over 2 days then changes the BB to the same)

The RIM FB app is a very bad app.

Thanks for that tip. I never had problems with OS5 but with the Torch and OS6 I've had nothing but calendar issues. I'll delete FB and see if that corrects it. BTW RIM, this IS NOT an acceptable solution!!!

It IS an acceptable solution. You're using a specific application that uses the system's API to Read/Write to the Calendar while you're trying to wirelessly sync this via the NOC to an online email calendar system that also has Read/Write Access.

If you think of Delegation in Outlook - its ALWAYS preferable that only 1 user has Read+Write access to another person's Calendar - same situation here. The issue is that neither Calendar knows what the other is doing at any given time. Get rid of the FaceBook Calendar - what serious reason would you require that?!

Common sense to me is if FaceBook still cannot understand & respect the need for their user communities privacy why should I use my work/personal life in their calendar??!!!!

I couldn't agree more. I've used all three major smartphones (iPhone -> Bold 9000 -> Bold 9700 -> Moto Droid 2 -> Bold 9700). For me, the BlackBerry is the best device for everything I do. However, calendar sync is one of the areas where iOS and Android just plain beat the BlackBerry. Syncing my iPhone with my iCal/MobileMe was flawless including calendar colors and such, and same thing with my Droid 2 and my Gmail Calendars. Ultimately, this shortcoming isn't wasn't enough to keep my from returning back to my blackberry, but it really is something that RIM needs to take care of.

Isaac,
I really don't mind you using my calendar picture from earlier this year, but shouldn't some credit be given?

Second, I realize that the latest BIS google wireless sync doesn't work for everyone, but for one of my main issues it actually fixed it. Being able to sync 2 (or more) separate google account calendars. I have been happy with the fix, yes it would be great if you could import more than just the main calendar, but it is 10 times better than trying to do 2 accounts with google's gsync.

I really didn't care about you using my calendar picture. You didn't have to change it. I just found it odd this morning when I looked and saw a picture I had posted in the forums on the blogs.

Amen ..

get a backup iPod touch or an Android device and keep your sanity..

I carry an Android device without a SIM while I wait for RIM to fix their calenar sync issues. also lets me play Angry Birds as a Bonus ;)

So, you just let your calendar update via wifi on your Android device? I'm also thinking about going this route. Can you get gmail etc all on your Android via wifi without a SIM installed.

i much prefer using the google sync third party app over the BIS Google Calendar integration. In my opinion the whole plugin and email set up was prematurely released and it full of bugs. now im not too picky but when there is this many bugs i cant stick with it. google sync third party has it right. BIS's version of Google Sync is terribly wrong. Don't get me started on the email implementation with labels and what not. i agree its not RIM's fault that google sets up their emails completely different than the rest of the world but i dont agree with how they released it knowing damn well it was going to be this buggy. just my 2 cents.

The google sync app does not work well with Birthdays and Anniversaries that are set up to repeat every year. I have tried to set them up in my blackberry and on my google calendar. Every time I do this and sync the reoccurring events to not sync correctly. They go from being one day all day long to two days as well as from my start time to end time for the day. My facebook calendar does not have this issues. I think that the google sync app needs to be updated to fix this as well as allow any calendar on google to sync such as sports calendars. I have to add 162 baseball, 82 basketball, 82 hockey, 16 football events each year as well as holidays. Please fix this.

I think BIS would be great, if it would actually work. It doesn't detect my google calender no matter what I do. Oh well, there's still google sync.

This is far from a solution. It's just a workaround I found.

I have another google account and I imported my Personal calendar to it.

Since my babe and I trust each other and got nothing to ride, what we did was add our email addresses to each other's Blackberry, and set filters so we don't get each other's emails.

So, I have 2 extra emails on my BIS now, my 'Personal' and 'My Babe's', none sending emails to me. But I do get everything (specially the colors) BIS provides.

Since we're at it, RIM could make the sync process faster. Oh and fix the bloody fields! TItles I set in Google Contacts show up in 1st name!

@Isaac Kendall:

I'm not sure why you are having this problem, as I am able to get multiple GMail calendars on my Torch.

I have multiple Gmail calendars on my Torch but you only get one calendar per BIS mail account.

I have BIS syncing with my @ikendall.com address hosted with Google Apps. In my @ikendall.com calendar I've got my personal calendar, my wife's calendar & my church's calendar. However on my BlackBerry, BIS only syncs my personal calendar.

I've thought about adding my wife's google account to my BIS so her calendar would sync over but I'd get her email too, and I don't need anymore email on my BlackBerry.

With the old Google Sync tool it would sync over all the calendars but I could only add new items to one of them.

Android and iOS allow for multiple independent calendar support and I really hope that BlackBerry brings the same.

OK, I get it now. It's just that I wasn't aware of what Google Calendars could do, and that you could have multiple Google Calendars on one Google account.

"I've thought about adding my wife's google account to my BIS so her calendar would sync over but I'd get her email too, and I don't need anymore email on my BlackBerry."

Well, only if you don't set up the filters to 'Don't send to this device', as I said in the other comment.

I know it is not perfect, but it is a workaround.

I couldn't agree with Isaac more...so Santa throw a proper BIS wireless sync in your bag for me. I can't believe the amount of time I have spent trying to get the calendar to sync with google.

What good is google sync if it deletes appointments that are 4 weeks old...Sometimes I need to look back!

How about adding to that list a REAL 2-way syncing of Gmail! I use my Blackberry just as much as my laptop and wished when I read e-mail on the laptop and delete it the same would happen on my Blackberry.

O.K. I'm confused too....I didn't load the Google Calendar Sync because I was afraid the one calendar would have everything jumbled into one. For email, rather than use the main message box, I use the individual accounts to keep work (BES) email separate from personal email. Can I assume the Google Calendar Sync doesn't have this or did I miss something looking into this?

I have Angry Birds envy too.....add that to the list!

And that's why I carry around and iPhone 4 too, it just looks stupid. Also my client uses MS Exchange for mail and BES, but since I'm a consultant I'm not on their BES so I use BIS to get email through them. RIM mandates a three minute delay in emails as a sales pressure point for people to pay up to BES. My iPhone doesn't do that and it's embarrassing.

Blackberry doesn't support Hotmail Activesync Echange. Who wants to pay monthly charges for services like BES, Astrasync or Notifysync if you can have Activesync on any platform like Android, WebOS, iOS, Symbian or Windows Mobile without additional charges. BB Calendar is a waste of time and money. Just useless...

I got so frustrated with it that I dumped Google Calendar (getting up to 10 duplicates) and switched to Nice Office (www.niceoffice.com). It doesn't allow me to sync with my wife's Google Calendar but not having the frustration has been worth it. I use the free app; they have a paid one too. I use it for calendar, contacts and tasks and they all sync with my Bold 9650.

Thank you for this post. I'm entering year 3 of my calendar-syncing battle between Google and my Storm on BIS. I am very happy with RIM's syncing solution. I first had the Google app and dealt with it breaking the reoccurance on my weekly meetings, leaving individual meetings detached from one another so I could not update the entire series. This was only a problem around daylight saving start/end in the US because the meeting invites did not adjust, moving my 10am appointment up or down an hour. For the all-day events everyone says spans two days - anyone notice the time span? For me being in Eastern Time it would be Day 1 8pm to Day 2 8pm, -4 hours or my GMT offset. Really? Then there's the whole receiving meeting invites to my Gmail account, accepting them and receiving duplicate entries on my calendar, most likely because Google added them to my calendar too.

So even though Issac's wish is important if RIM wants to be a contender in the consumer market, to me it is a nice-to-have considering the problems that their competition has to deal with.

I agree with the want for a better calendar. Don't get me wrong, it has some great advantages. I love my wife and I can have a BBM group calendar so we don't have manually enter everything the other enters. What I hate is the lack of control over the Facebook Calendar. Why do events I'm not attending get pushed while the invite for my dad's BD party not get pushed? Also, I would love a way to merge duplicate entries. Again, Facebook might announce a BD, my Outlook might announce a birthday and my BB contact might announce a BD.

Maybe I'm ranting and there's an easy way to fix this. If there is, please let me know.

I had nothing but problems with the Google Sync app and calendar duplication. I also used to run multiple calendars and ended up going back to one because it actually ended up confusing things (on the app side and mine). If I'm busy, I'm busy and colour coding that doesn't make things any less busy. The BIS Google sync works as far as I can tell perfectly. Sync from the BB to Google is almost instant, and it rarely takes very long to go the other way.

A quite elegant work round I've found is to use the rss feed feature of google calendar (settings -> private address -> xml button) and viigo (other rss readers are available)

When my wife enters an appointment in our shared calendar I get an alert from viigo. As far as I'm aware there is no other way of knowing when a new appointment has been added to a shared gCal.

I have to agree on this - the new wireless sync for Google is nice (got it when I switched to AT&T Pearl 3G from old T-Mobile Pearl) and when configured properly, complements the separate Google Sync app. However, when I first set it up, I was getting literally dozens of duplicated calendar and contacts - what a mess! It would be much nicer if the wireless sync could handle multiple calendars itself and I could drop the Google Sync app. In the meantime here is what I have done - it allows for automatic two-way sync of my primary Gmail calendar, while also bringing over other calendars onto my BlackBerry and providing a two-way sync of a second (shared) Google Calendar.

My solution (this is all for OS 5.0 - on other versions this may not work as well):

#1 disable contact sync on the Google sync application (wireless sync will do this instead) - do this from Google Sync "Options" menu item

#2 modify Google Sync calendar options so that it only syncs non-primary calendars (whether in My Calendars or other people's calendars doesn't matter - just not the primary Google calendar for the Google/Gmail account) - also from Google Sync "Options" menu item - select the calendar list to bring up a second page with list of calendars - make sure the first item in "My Calendars" is unchecked

#3 modify Google Sync calendar sync options to add new handheld events to "None" (or one of the non-primary Google calendars) - on the same Select Calendars settings page as #2

#4 make sure that default BlackBerry calendar is NOT a Gmail account with wireless sync enabled (this is a little annoying when creating new calendar entries, since you always have to select a different calendar - but it is a helluva lot less annoying that dealing with the duplicates!) - do this from system Options, select Advanced Options -> Default Services and change the Calendar (CICAL) to a non-Gmail account (e.g. the default .blackberry.net e-mail)

#5 make Gmail account sync for contact list - on the same Default Services page as #4, set the default service for Contact List (SYNC) to a Gmail account

#6 enable wireless sync for contacts and calendars in the Gmail account - do this from the Email settings wizard and select a Gmail account, open the Synchronization Options (+) and make sure that Calendar and Contacts are checked

It took me a few days to get this working the way I wanted it, but it is definitely an improvement over what I had before, and I am so glad to be rid of those annoying fields that I used to get in Google Calendar and contacts with my old OS 4.5 sync via Google Sync app (I think the app may have been updated to be a bit smarter about that).

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I am so glad to be rid of those annoying «Content Protection enabled» fields...

On #5, I don't have a Contact List(SYNC) setting. I'm looking in Default Services and I just have Calendar (CICAL) and Messaging (CMIME). I'm running 1015 on a 9550. Thanks!

I hear you and feel your pain! I have four kids and a wife... 6 calendars to sync plus a couple of sports teams! I live by my calendar, and I've been doing so for more than 5 years. When I heard of the BIS upgrade to include Google Calendar sync, I was excited. Unfortunately, it didn't support multiple calendars. Major downer!!!! What's the deal?!? I have since reverted back to Google Sync as it is my only option!!!

I had to deal with tons of duplicated events which everyone blamed me for -- yes, even the kids!

Wake up, RIM! If you're going to support Calendar sync, you need to get it right!

Seriously though, I think RIM should consider supporting such a function. They have email services... why not calendar syncing services? After all, what would BIS customers do if Google were to stop supporting Calendar Sync?!? Unfortunately, I'd have to ditch my BB for another device that can do that.

Seriously, Google, if you were to do that, my next device won't be an Android!

My wish from RIM Santa would be native ActiveSync in BIS.

Period.

I don't do, and never will do Google. But I'd love to sync OTA my regular outlook calendar and contacts tied to my pop email that I've had forever (long before there was "gmail") without having to buy into some silly subscription. I'd switch to Windows Live if that would work without going through Google or even Hotmail (which I also won't do).

I am a first time BB user (9650 still on OS5), and for me Calendar (and to a lesser degree Contact) handling is my single biggest complaint about the BlackBerry experience. I am on BIS, and the IMAP client being 'not quite a real IMAP client' I can live with. I can live without 'the full Web experience'. I can live without Angry Birds. The lack of multiple calendars is really frustrating.

What do I mean by multiple calendars? One username/password pointing at one server... which hosts multiple calendars. Some of those calendars are read only. Some are read/write. I get to select on a calendar by calendar basis if I want to get notifications or not. I don't comprehend how anyone can operate efficiently on a groupware/shared-calendar work environment without this functionality.

How long does BIS gmail calendar sync take to sync? is there a way to make it sync more often? I am trying it out for the first time and i am still waiting for calendar entries to make it from my phone to my gmail calendar. Thanks.

I've not been a Blackberry user for that long.... about 1 & 1/2 years. But in that time I've learned all I that is possible concerning their use with Gmail. My company has 10 Blackberrys and we all use Gmail calender, all of us having multiple calendars.... some shared, some personal. I switched to an iPhone last August and oh my my... what a wonderful relationship w/ Gmail BUT we work in construction and can't have delicate and expensive iPhones on our guys' hips. I am back on Blackberry (Torch... for now) so that I can troubleshoot and help our guys when they have problems. I am disgusted with the lack of advancement that I hoped would take place in my absence. I almost feel like steps were taken backwards. Don't really understand who is at fault... Google or RIM? I just know that at one point today I was heading out the door to get my iPhone back after realizing I would have to manually delete 100's of duplicate entries in my Gmail calendar. I've gone on long enough... my 2 cents.

I switched to BIS sync at first but switched back to Googlesync for two reasons...

1 - It only syncs my main calendar and not all the others too.
2 - Wireless sync locks up your calendar so you can't sync any extra desktop calendars. Previously I would googlesync all my personal stuff but then I would also plug into my work laptop and sync that to the same calendar. I had no issues with duplications and it worked fine. The moment you switch to BIS sync, it locks up any form of desktop sync

I had Facebook Mobile Account in "CICAL" as Default synced with my email account on my Bold 9650! That was Just This Year?! I Got a *BOLD 9930 & am trying to do the same and it is not working?! It was Setup on the Bold 9650 Automatically! But on this Bold 9930, the setup app doent have "Facebook or Twitter Apps" that you can steup?? They want you to use "BB APPWORLD" & Get the Facebook & Twitter Apps" From them; BUt They SUCK?! I had the "Facebook for Mobile App! The Original since 2008 & It wasd Great! I want it back! The Same with Twitter! Why Take a Good Option & Take it out of A Newer Version of The BB Bolds?! Frustrating!!